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Former Army National Guard director uses lessons learned in Vietnam War throughout career

While serving as the deputy adjutant general for the Iowa National Guard, Roger Schultz was asked to consider a short 70-day assignment at the Pentagon as deputy director of the Army’s directorate for mobilization support. After the first couple of months in the Army Operations Center, Schultz’s tour was extended. Yet another extension resulted in nine months plus as deputy director, which propelled him to an even greater post.

Toward the end of his extended tour, the position of director of the Army National Guard became available. Schultz called his wife, Barb, who was still living in Des Moines, Iowa, and said to her, “I think I need to apply for this position. What do you think?”

“Becoming (the Director of the Army National Guard) – it’s one of those jobs that kind of stands out,” he said. “Just to be in the competition is a special experience.”

In 1998, Schultz was appointed director of the Army National Guard as a major general and three years later was promoted to lieutenant general. His appointment marked a new opportunity in the U.S. military with the integration of the National Guard and Active Army. At the time, Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. John Hamre was looking for ways to integrate the reserve components into the Army. He thought, in particular, the Guard would be the place to start, according to Schultz. After spending nine months in the Army Operations Center working the full range of operations support, which included military support for special security events, Hamre assigned Schultz to a more specific duty as the general officer from the Guard to the Center. “I was hoping to help out with the integration of the Army,” added Schultz. “I wanted to help with the issue of communicating where the Guard and Reserve fit in.”

Schultz recognized the challenge ahead. He knew there were many who assumed the Guard was unable to complete certain missions. “We said, ‘Great! Let us show you we can do the tough missions also,’” he said. “The fact that I was the first Guard officer as the deputy director of operations is neat for the historical significance, but that is not why I was there. It was the mission and the need that really shaped how I responded to the requirements. Every task we worked on was a special challenge, and that is what motivated our whole team to get things done and to standard.”

Schultz grew up on a small family farm near Le Mars, Iowa. Growing up, he had admired his uncles that served in World War II – one served in the Army Air Corps, one served with General Patton at the Battle of the Bulge, and one stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day as a combat medic. At the age of 17 in 1963, Schultz sought his parents’ permission to join the Iowa Army National Guard. His mother signed the papers within 30 seconds. His father asked him if he was sure. Schultz responded, “I’m positive.”

“My reason for joining the Guard was to learn a skill. Technical trade was my focus from the days when I was a young kid,” he said. “Joining A Company 2nd Battalion (Mechanized) 133rd Infantry was perfect for me since they needed mechanics, and that’s just what I wanted to do.”

Schultz has faced many challenges throughout his nearly 43 years in the Guard. But, from each challenge, he has taken away lessons that he applied throughout his career. While attending college in Sioux City, Iowa, and working at a local GM dealership, Schultz was mobilized for a tour in Vietnam. Although he wasn’t surprised since he was a member of a Select Reserve Force unit that had been training on an accelerated drill schedule, Schultz had very little time to square away his college courses before he was sent to Fort Benning, Ga., for branch qualification. As a newly commissioned second lieutenant just graduated from Officer Candidate School, Schultz had not yet completed Infantry Officer Basic training.

His first day in-country, Schultz reported late one day to his new company. They had just come off a mission and had recently lost one of their lieutenants. “And I was their new lieutenant and that’s all that was important to them,” he said. “I do recall that you don’t get a lot of time for transition to combat duty in a rifle platoon. My transition was five NCOs (non-commissioned officers) adopting me. (They) didn’t worry about where I grew up, what school I graduated from, where I’d been lately. All they wanted was a lieutenant and I was theirs. What’s interesting about it is they took the time to coach me early. That’s how it all worked out. I had similar experiences in both platoons I led in combat – the rifle platoon and the scout platoon.”

On his first day of combat, Schultz was hit by shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade and spent the first night recovering from wounds at an aid station. “Sometimes it all happens at light speed,” he said. “You know the story line, ‘I am going to have plenty of time for transition.’ Well, it does not always happen that way.”

Schultz’s first company commander was a West Point graduate whose 11-day mentoring left a lasting impression on the young lieutenant. “He was the most competent leader and soldier,” Schultz said. “The surprise for me was the way he accepted me into the unit.

“The way the company commander took care of me and looked after me was something special. Some of the things that he did in the 11 days that I knew him to this day remain a unique experience for me. At night, when we weren’t on missions he was (instructing) me and scratching out on a piece of paper basic techniques and fundamentals, and then Captain Croker was killed in action by a booby trap 11 days after I met him.”

“The NCOs and soldiers in that first combat assignment went out of their way to look after me and so did my first company commander,” he added. “Those were life-altering lessons for me.”

After the Vietnam War, Schultz served in a variety of command and staff positions in Iowa including commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion 133rd Infantry; Commander of the 1st Battalion 168th Infantry; Commander of the 2nd Brigade, 34th Division; Operations Officer and Chief of Staff of the Iowa Army National Guard.

In the late 1970s, Schultz was able to focus on his college education. While living in Des Moines, he started with the UIU-Des Moines Center. Upper Iowa was willing to award credit for Schultz’s military experience, and the staff was very interested in helping him complete his degree. “The UIU staff was most influential in my consideration for figuring out where to start,” he added. “The pace of the courses was challenging yet reasonable.”

In 1989, he earned his bachelor’s degree in management setting the stage for his next educational goal. In 1992, he graduated from the U.S. Army War College and received a master’s degree in public administration from Shippensburg State University. “There is no doubt that my Upper Iowa experiences prepared me for my master’s education,” he said. “My experience was a perfect foundation for my extended education. In fact had I not completed by degree at UIU I would never have been selected to attend the US Army War College.”

A much-decorated and honored soldier, Schultz retired from the military in 2005. In civilian life, he became vice president of UNITECH, a simulations and services company that provided homeland security and military training and simulation products and services to the U.S. government and the military. Schultz is currently the senior vice president and chief operating officer of SENTEL Corporation, which provides engineering, logistical and intelligence services that also includes technology development and testing services for military and government agencies.

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